The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without | Westword

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December 4, 2023

Dining out in Denver is better than ever, and we’ve got the proof: this list of our current 100 favorite restaurants. Tried-and-true spots are still going strong, providing a nostalgic taste of the Mile High’s culinary foundation. But there has also been a slew of impressive additions in recent years, upping the ante for anyone in search of a memorable meal.

While a lot of well-deserved hype hit when the Michelin Guide released its first Colorado edition, we opted to leave the metro area’s first one-star eateries off this list — but not because we’d ever want to live without them. Quite the opposite: Frasca, Beckon, the Wolf’s Tailor and Brutø are powerhouses, and their contributions have helped Colorado’s culinary scene gain national recognition. Instead, we chose to highlight sister concepts of each, all destinations in their own right where you might have a shot at getting a seat.

Anything within the Westword circulation area — which stretches from Boulder to Castle Rock, Aurora to Evergreen — was eligible for consideration, as long as the restaurant was open by Labor Day 2023. We pushed the envelope for two delicious exceptions: concepts that moved into brick-and-mortar locations after dishing up delicious eats for years in other formats.

Ready to dig in? From hole-in-the-wall eateries, diners and bakeries to steakhouses and splurge-worthy escapes, these picks celebrate everything we love about the city’s diverse dining options.
- By Molly Martin

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bar Dough

Bar Dough
Molly Martin
Open since 2015, Bar Dough feels like a longtime staple in LoHi, where the Italian eatery offers fresh pasta, pizza, small plates and a top-notch happy hour. The kitchen is led by chef Russell Stippich, who spent time at Frasca, Acorn and the Populist before joining the Culinary Creative restaurant group and landing at Bar Dough. ($$$)
2227 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Glo Noodle House

Glo Noodle House
Glo Noodle House
This playful, noodle-centric eatery debuted in 2022 and made a big first impression thanks to its mastery of big flavors, from miso bacon ramen, with a broth that takes 48 hours to prepare, to foie gras with yuzu marmalade. The bar program is Japan-inspired, with Japanese gin, whisky and shochu making appearances, and the bathroom resembles a bodega, complete with bouquets of flowers and Pocky Stick boxes. ($$)
4450 W. 38th Ave., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Rooted Craft American Kitchen

Rooted Craft American Kitchen
Lucy Beaugard
Since opening in May 2023, former Vesta chef Nicholas Kayser’s first brick-and-mortar (he also has a stall in Avanti Boulder) has been finding its rhythm in the Highland neighborhood, dishing up the kind of fare you could eat once (or twice) a week, including a choose-your-own meats and frites adventure, classic carbonara made with local pasta from Sfoglina, burgers, classic sandwich favorites and more. The bar is skilled at crafting low-ABV cocktails, too, which means you can definitely order another one as you linger on the patio for some people-watching. ($$$)
3940 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

African Grill and Bar

African Grill and Bar
Molly Martin
The menu isn’t limited to a specific African region at this restaurant owned and run by Sylvester Osei-Fordwuo and his wife, Theodora. Instead, it offers a variety of foods from across the continent. If dishes like fufu, South African pap and chakalaka sound unfamiliar, worry not: The knowledgeable staff is happy to help guide you, delivering plenty of warm hospitality along the way. ($$)
955 S. Kipling Parkway, Lakewood, 80226

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Regular

The Regular
Bird Tree Productions
This moody fine-dining restaurant opened in July 2023 in LoDo under the guidance of Syd Younggreen and her husband, chef Brian de Souza, who previously operated a private dining series called the Guest out of their home. Now the 6,800-square-foot space, divided into two concepts — the Regular and a new iteration of the tasting-menu-only Guest — can accommodate many more diners. And because the standout flavors and elegant platings will attract customers who appreciate the unexpected, that's a very good thing for Denver dining. ($$$$)
1432 Market St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Columbine Steak House & Lounge

Columbine Steak House & Lounge
Erik Rangel
An image of a steak and a martini glass tops the bright-yellow sign on Federal Boulevard where Columbine Steak House has been serving up cuts of beef, burgers and fries since 1961. And not much has changed since then at this no-frills joint. Guests opting to sit in the main dining room order at the counter, where you specify what cut you want and how you like it cooked before your steak is kissed by flames and served with a simple side salad, Texas toast and a baked potato. There’s also a lounge side with full service where you can settle in with a strong drink. Whatever you do, leave the coat and tie at home…and don’t forget to bring cash. ($$)
300 Federal Blvd., Denver, 80219

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro

Garibaldi Mexican Bistro
Mark Antonation
Garibaldi Mexican Bistro shares a building with a Conoco service station; the little eatery is wedged between the gas station's convenience store and automated car wash, but don’t let the location fool you: This is one of the top spots in town for tacos as well as specials like lamb barbacoa and quesadillas with huitlacoche and squash blossoms. Other hard-to-find regional dishes include pambazos (smothered tortas), nopales rellenos (stuffed cactus leaves), Oaxacan-style tlayudas, and mixiote (slow-cooked pork or chicken). Fill ’er up! ($)
3298 S. Broadway, Englewood, 80113

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

GetRight's

GetRight's
GetRight's
GetRight's got its start as a cottage bakery during the pandemic, gaining a loyal following that owners Matt Dulin and his wife, Lindsey Judd, have worked to maintain during the eleven months of delays they encountered trying to make their brick-and-mortar a reality. In May 2023, the spot finally opened as a combination bakery and plant shop, serving pastries and bread along with a rotating menu of scrumptious savory items like pizza and sandwiches, including a dreamy jambon beurre. Despite all the challenges, they definitely got this right. ($)
6985 W. 38th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 80033

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Poppies Restaurant

Poppies Restaurant
Molly Martin
A red awning over a strip-mall space in south Denver marks the entrance to Poppie’s, where those in the know have been heading for classic American favorites and high-quality bar banter since 1985. Step inside and let the staff — many of whom have worked there for years — do what they do best: make you feel at home while you dig into specialties like the can’t-miss prime rib and French dip. ($$)
2334 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, 80207

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Angelo's Taverna

Angelo's Taverna
Molly Martin
Angelo's Taverna bills itself as Denver's original pizza and oyster bar — and since it's been serving central Denver since the Nixon administration, it's safe to say that it's the longest-running restaurant of its ilk, though it’s now on its second owners (who opened a second outpost in Littleton). Even if you love oysters raw, Angelo’s makes a compelling argument for a chargrilled preparation, dressing them up with garlic butter, bacon and Gorgonzola or chipotle bourbon butter. There’s also a stacked lineup of Italian fare, but whatever you order, don't skip the housemade limoncello. ($$)
620 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Sonny's Mediterranean

Sonny's Mediterranean
Molly Martin
Former Safta chef David Schloss opened Sonny's in June 2023 after what seemed like an interminable wait (but was actually two years after he signed the lease for the former music store). With a simple menu built around three main categories — giant pita sandwiches, salads and mains centered on falafel, mezze and whole roasted chicken — it’s a fast-casual winner with bold flavors in the Highland neighborhood. ($$)
2622 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Porchetta House

The Porchetta House
Molly Martin
In 2023, AJ Paloni launched his first solo venture out of the currently catering-only daytime restaurant Spices Cafe, bringing something truly delicious to this corner of Colfax: porchetta, in various forms. His porky creations can be enjoyed in sandwiches or over fries and come in several varieties, including the original, a banh mi-inspired take, and another that plays on the flavors of al pastor. ($)
1510 Humboldt St., Denver, 80218

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Stone Cellar Bistro

Stone Cellar Bistro
Molly Martin
Longtime pals Jordan Alley and Husk alum Brandon Kerr opened Stone Cellar Bistro in 2022, upping the culinary game in this suburb to a whole new level. Whether serving inventive foie gras preparations or showing off a mastery of fried chicken, the dishes here offer a wide range of flavor combinations that work together to create an upscale experience. And it fits seamlessly into Olde Town Arvada’s small-town vibes, thanks to a close-knit team with the skills to make every diner feel like an old friend. ($$$)
7605 Grandview Ave., Arvada, 80002

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

A5 Steakhouse

A5 Steakhouse
A5 Steakhouse
The Culinary Creative Group has had a string of hits, but A5, which debuted in 2021, stands out — and not just for its steaks (though those are excellent). With lively, retro-inspired vibes, this is the kind of place where we want to go for special-occasion dinners, weeknight happy hours and everything in between. Whether you belly up to the bar for a well-crafted Manhattan and a French dip or settle in at a table for a multi-course feast complete with oysters and A5 wagyu, this spot always delivers in both flavor and fun. ($$$$)
1600 15th St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Abejas

Abejas
Molly Martin
Since Abejas opened in downtown Golden in 2015, the intimate eatery has become a standout for fine dining in the western suburbs. The name is Spanish for “bees,” after founders Brandon Bortles and Barry Dobesh, who were called “the Bs” by their friends — and it’s still buzz-worthy, thanks to its eclectic, seasonal roster of clever yet grounded dishes incorporating global influences and bolstered by playful cocktails and a succinct but smart list of wines by the glass. ($$$$)
807 13th St., Golden, 80401

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Coperta

Coperta
Molly Martin
In 2016, Paul and Aileen Reilly, the brother-and-sister duo behind the beloved, now-closed Beast + Bottle, opened this cozy restaurant that pays homage to the food of Southern Italy. Under chef de cuisine Kenny Minton, it continues to offer some of the finest pasta in town, as well as dreamy, house-baked focaccia and longtime customer go-tos like pollo alla diavola, a spicy dish that’s best followed by a scoop of olive oil gelato. ($$$$)
400 E. 20th Ave., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Hop Alley

Hop Alley
Molly Martin
Tommy Lee had a quick hit on his hands in 2012 when he opened his ramen shop, Uncle. But three years later, he made an even bigger splash with Hop Alley, serving his exhilarating take on Chinese food fueled by a high-energy hip-hop playlist. Over a decade later, this restaurant continues to impress, whether you order dishes that have become staples — like the unctuous bone marrow fried rice and la ji zi loaded with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chiles — or ever-rotating new additions. ($$)
3500 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Sushi Sasa

Sushi Sasa
Sushi Sasa/Instagram
Wayne Conwell has been slicing fish and finding new ways to upend Japanese tradition at Sushi Sasa since 2005. By synthesizing Western technique and current Denver tastes with the traditions of sushi that evolved in isolation long before it hit American shores, the chef has continued to stay relevant in a scene that shifts and changes like an undulating school of tuna. ($$$$)
2401 15th St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
Danielle Lirette
While many local barbecue joints specialize in Texas-style ’cue, Roaming Buffalo’s is based firmly in Colorado culinary history, with pulled lamb, huge bison ribs and venison sausage. It also serves more traditional meats such as pork ribs and brisket, which are available by the pound, heaped onto sandwiches or on plates, with sides such as smoked poblano cheddar mac and Southwest potato salad. ($$)
2387 S. Downing St., Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Fish N Beer

Fish N Beer
Molly Martin
Over a decade ago, Kevin Morrison launched a food truck that became the multi-location Tacos, Tequila, Whiskey. Then in 2016, he added a new concept in a small, lively space in RiNo, where oysters are cooked over an open fire and other wood-fired, crowd-pleasing entrees like beer-battered cod and fries are cooked in the open kitchen. Whether you’re munching on smelt fries at the counter or going big with brown butter scallops and crab-stuffed cod, you’ll never leave this spot feeling salty. ($$$)
3510 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Parisi

Parisi
Molly Martin
Parisi has gone through many iterations in its 25 years, but one constant has been owner Christine Parisi’s passion for sharing Italian fare. The business originally opened in 1998 as a market and deli before moving to Tennyson Street and leaning into serving prepared foods, including fresh pastas and panini. While its fine-dining downstairs sibling, Firenze a Tavola, has remained closed since the pandemic, Parisi has continued to meet the neighborhood where it is, offering a fast-casual escape where the food is always comforting and made with care. ($$)
4401 Tennyson St., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Meet & Eat Bistro

Meet & Eat Bistro
Molly Martin
This strip-mall spot on the Denver-Aurora city line offers a typical roster of Chinese dishes that appeal to the American palate: lo mein, fried rice, beef and broccoli and the like. They are all done well, but we recommend diners skip to the section of the menu labeled "Traditional Chinese Entrees," where they'll find more interesting — and flavorful — items like mapo tofu and Sichuan fish in hot chile oil, as well as specialties that make use of all of an animal's parts, from the pig's knuckle to its ear. (There’s even duck’s blood in a chile preparation.) ($$)
10021 E. Hampden Ave., Denver, 80231

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar

Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar
Molly Martin
Kristy Socarras Bigelow, who opened Cuba Cuba in the heart of the Golden Triangle in 2001, is a poster child for the American Dream. A Cuban-American from Miami whose family didn’t allow her to go to college and who had little restaurant experience, she decided to create a Cuban-influenced eatery in two little conjoined Victorian houses. Socarras Bigelow has since opened several fast-casual spinoffs, but the original still charms with its tiny but friendly bar that specializes in mojitos and a fabulous shaded patio. ($$$)
1173 Delaware St., Denver, 80204

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

MAKfam

MAKfam
Jeff Fierberg
MAKfam's long, narrow dining room is lit by neon signs that recall 1980s Hong Kong, and the eatery's cuisine is an homage to dishes that the owners, Kenneth Wan and Doris Yuen, have eaten in that megalopolis. The restaurant is the next step in the evolution of Meta Asian Kitchen, which originally opened in Denver's Avanti food hall in late 2019. Now, with more space, the two are able to expand their already delicious menu of modern Cantonese cuisine made with a reverence for MSG, like the deep-fried málà-spiced chicken wings, chicken-and-chive-filled Chinatown dumplings, shrimp XO fried rice and spicy garlic butter rice cakes. ($)
39 W. 1st Ave., Denver, 80223

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Ohana Island Kitchen

Ohana Island Kitchen
Molly Martin
In 2016, before there were poke chains popping up all over the place, Louie and Regan Colburn brought the Hawaiian specialty to Denver. What started as a takeout window at the now-closed Truffle Table soon moved into a permanent home across the street in LoHi, where Ohana continues to serve poke in its pure form, letting the high-quality fish shine; there’s also a small selection of other island favorites like kalua pork and Spam musubi. ($$)
2563 15th St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Potager

Potager
Molly Martin
Started by Teri Rippeto in 1997, this Capitol Hill eatery ushered in Denver’s obsession with farm-to-table eating. In early 2019, Potager was sold to Paul and Eileen Warthen and Nik Brand, who have stayed true to its spirit, carrying Rippeto’s commitment to connecting with local farmers and the community. From the cozy dining room to the hidden back garden, there’s not a bad seat in the house, and one meal here will show why this eatery has claimed a special place in so many people’s hearts for over 25 years. ($$$)
1109 Ogden St., Denver, 80218

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

La Fiesta

La Fiesta
Mark Antonation
La Fiesta celebrated sixty years in business in 2023, making it one of Denver’s oldest restaurants that’s still operating in the same location and run by the same family that founded it. Located in a former Safeway, it doles out Denver's unique style of Mexican food done right. While the late-night dance parties of decades ago are now just memories, it has solidified its reputation as a lunchtime gathering spot, attracting everyone from cops to lawyers to Colorado Supreme Court justices. ($$)
2340 Champa St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

NBX Asian Cuisine

NBX Asian Cuisine
Mark Antonation
For those living in the southern suburbs, the family-owned NBX Asian Cuisine, which opened in 2022, offers a warm, casual atmosphere alongside an impressive array of Chinese dishes. The owner is happy to help guests navigate the choices, which range from Shandong chicken in a rich brown sauce to pan-fried dumplings, chilled liangpi (wide noodles), and rou jia mo, a dish often referred to as “Chinese hamburgers,” a rare find in the Mile High. ($$)
9068 Forsstrom Dr., Lone Tree, 80124

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Table 6

Table 6
Courtesy Table 6
There have been many changes at Table 6 since the cozy eatery opened in 2004, and the latest came recently, when owner Aaron Forman passed away. The neighborhood favorite is now in the very capable hands of general manager Amanda Davis and chef Aniedra Nichols, who became its owners in June 2023. The menu continues to highlight fun twists on American comfort food, served in a space that feels as comfortable as someone’s well-decorated, well-lived-in, well-loved home. ($$$)
609 Corona St., Denver, 80218

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Carrera's Tacos

Carrera's Tacos
Molly Martin
Originally from California, brothers Joshua and Ryan Carrera launched a catering company-turned-food truck in 2019 with the goal of bringing the type of Mexican food they'd grown up eating to the Mile High — and their business was a hit. In 2022, it moved into a permanent home, making the Denver Tech Center an unlikely destination for French fry-filled burritos, ceviche, asada fries and a variety of must-try tacos. ($)
7939 E. Arapahoe Rd., Greenwood Village, 80112

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bourbon Grill

Bourbon Grill
Molly Martin
Since 2002, the aroma of chargrilled chicken has wafted from Bourbon Grill, which began as a walk-up window with a perpetual line before moving into a larger space with indoor seating in 2017. The star, of course, is the bourbon chicken, served in a hefty portion over rice with a choice of two sides. Founder and chef Lien Vo also dishes up other favorites like egg rolls, wings and creamy mac and cheese, all at prices that make a meal here one of the best values in town. ($)
571 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Grammy's Goodies

Grammy's Goodies
Molly Martin
Grammy's started out as little more than a booth selling homemade cookies at Lakewood's annual Festival Italiano, but expanded to a counter-service restaurant and bakery in 2015. Somehow, though, it feels like it's been around a lot longer. Go here for pizza, towering slices of lasagna, and savory sausage cannoli (spelled here with a double "n," like its sweet counterpart) with a Denver-inspired slice of green chile inside. But Grammy's also stands out for its vast selection of baked goods — especially around holidays such as Christmas and Easter. ($)
4601 Harlan St., Wheat Ridge, 80033

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Fifth String at Attimo

The Fifth String at Attimo
The Fifth String
Chef-owner Amos Watts opened the Fifth String in the Highland neighborhood in 2020, in the space that formerly housed Justin Brunson's Old Major (Watts was Old Major's head chef for a couple of years). In fall 2024, the Fifth String relocated to the South Park Hill neighborhood, where it continues to turn out indulgent dishes like 24-ounce prime rib and its signature tallow candle bread service. ($$$)
1490 Eudora St., Denver, 80220

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

King of Wings

King of Wings
Linnea Covington
King of Wings launched as a food truck before debuting a brick-and-mortar that doubles as a taphouse in 2020. A year and a half after its opening, a kitchen fire forced it to close, but after staying alive thanks to a successful smashburger pop-up, King of Wings came back better than ever in 2023. Each order of wings gets grilled, adding a deep, smoky essence and a charred caramelization to the skin before the bird is doused in one of ten sauces. ($)
7741 W. 44th Ave., Wheat Ridge, 80033

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Bindery

The Bindery
Molly Martin
Linda Hampsten Fox opened her LoHi eatery — part market, part all-day dining destination — in 2017. Six years later, the menu continues to show off her passion for highlighting seasonal ingredients in unexpected ways as she composes dishes inspired by memories from her childhood, her travels and a thirty-year-plus career in restaurants. ($$$$)
1817 Central St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cucina Bella

Cucina Bella
Molly Martin
Tucked into a strip mall on East Alameda Avenue, Cucina Bella, which opened in 2022, is easy to overlook. But don't, because its owners, brothers Luis and Heriberto Gutierrez, have some serious culinary skills. The plain exterior belies the fine-dining-style take on the food, and the kitchen's commitment to quality comes through with every bite. Start with a generous pile of crispy calamari before digging into pizza, pasta and larger entrees like veal marsala, as well as a brunch menu that offers a taste of the owners’ Mexican heritage. ($$$)
9660 E. Alameda Ave., Denver, 80247

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bodega Denver

Bodega Denver
Bodega Denver
When Northside native Cliff Blauvelt, the chef-owner of Bodega, opened his neighborhood eatery in 2022, he described the offerings as "sandwich-forward." Since then, Bodega has gained a lot of fans both in and outside Sunnyside for a number of reasons, including its morning menu, which made it our 2023 pick for Best Breakfast, and its double cheeseburger, one of the best in town. Now Blauvelt is keeping things interesting with playful new additions, like a breakfast-sausage spin on the classic chopped cheese. ($)
2651 W. 38th Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Blazing Chicken Shack II

Blazing Chicken Shack II
Molly Martin
This small spot tucked a block off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard may not look particularly welcoming from the outside, with its caged-in windows and barred door, but you’ll find warm hospitality inside Blazing Chicken, along with a menu full of homestyle Southern classics. From the fried chicken to the gumbo to sides like mac and cheese and collard greens studded with shredded ham hock and bolstered with cabbage, this is soul food done right. ($)
5560 E. 33rd Ave., Denver, 80207

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Woody's Wings N' Things

Woody's Wings N' Things
Molly Martin
Don’t let the name of this strip-mall joint (which is not affiliated with the Aurora or Arvada locations of Woody’s) fool you: This is one of the metro area’s best Asian eateries, in disguise. The menu — a literal binder — is full of dishes with roots in the Indochina peninsula, from duck larb to whole fried fish to big bowls of Thai soups and so much more. Much of the staff hails from Cambodia, but there are also items whose origins lie in Thailand, Vietnam, China and Laos. If you do want a wing fix, that’s on the menu, too, but skip the buffalo sauce and go for the Thai lemongrass with peanuts or spicy Sichuan sauce instead. ($$)
6817 Lowell Blvd., Denver, 80221

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Molotov Kitschen

Molotov Kitschen
Molotov Kitschen
Chef-owner Bo Porytko (of Misfit Snackbar and the late, lamented Rebel Restaurant) always wanted to open an Eastern European concept rooted in Ukrainian fare, a nod to his heritage. That came to fruition in early 2023, when the kitschy Molotov opened in a cozy City Park spot. Unlike the often-surprising food at Rebel and Misfit, Porytko is sticking closer to traditional flavors and presentations, with hearty entrees and rotating dumplings, offering a far more refined take on the chef's particular brand of chaos, which still feels fun and fresh while deftly honoring a culture and cuisine with deep roots. Budmo! ($$$)
3333 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

El Taco De Mexico

El Taco De Mexico
Molly Martin
Perhaps no Mexican spot in the Mile High is as beloved as El Taco de Mexico, a no-frills joint that offers little in the way of ambience and even less in the way of service. But that hasn’t deterred the crowds that have been coming here since 1985 for tasty tacos and anything smothered in the lip-tingling green chile. In 2020, El Taco was honored by the James Beard Foundation as one of America’s Classics, a well-deserved honor. ($)
714 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, 80204

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Crown Burgers

Crown Burgers
Molly Martin
The casual, kitschy Crown Burgers has been around since 1987, when George Brokalakis opened the place with the same name and menu as a small chain founded in Salt Lake City, where he lived before relocating to the Mile High. But this place is pure Denver: Both inside the dining room and from the drive-thru window, the local fast-food institution serves burgers, yes, but also five-egg omelets, breakfast burritos with green chile, tuna melts and baklava. For a pure taste of nostalgia, the Junior cheeseburger does the job, but at the opposite end, there's the Royal, stacked with pastrami in addition to all the standard burger toppings. Call yourself the king if you can handle this one. ($)
2192 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver, 80222

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Quiero Arepas

Quiero Arepas
Mark Antonation
When you only make one thing, you’d better make it right. Igor and Beckie Panasewicz had compiled more than a decade of experience serving Venezuelan cuisine from their food truck and at the Avanti food hall when they finally opened their own Platt Park brick-and-mortar in 2019. Their experience shows in the restaurant’s succulent meats, fluffy corn-flour shells, savory black beans, sweet plantains and tangy sauces loaded with lime and cilantro. ($)
1859 S. Pearl St., Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

El Chingon

El Chingon
El Chingon
The late Gloria Nunez and her grandson, David Lopez, opened the original El Chingon in a strip mall in Arvada in 2010 before moving to a small space in Berkeley. In 2022, Gloria’s son, Lorenzo Nunez Jr., closed the restaurant in order to better accommodate the many fans of its Mexico City-inspired fare. A year later, El Chingon is back in LoHi, with more space but just as much heart. That El Chingon is a family affair gives every dish just a little more soul and a little more flavor, whether it’s a favorite like carne asada or soft chile rellenos, or a more upscale offering such as scallop crudo. ($$)
1691 Central St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Somebody People

Somebody People
Molly Martin
This brightly hued, plant-based eatery that debuted in 2019 feels casual and lighthearted, but the food is serious business, built on real vegetables, nuts and grains rather than relying on fake meats. Somebody People, named for a line in a David Bowie song, opens up a whole new world of light yet satisfying fare, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or neither. Get a sample during its weekly Sunday Supper, which includes a multi-course meal for $38 per person. ($$$)
1165 S. Broadway, Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Greenwich

The Greenwich
The Greenwich
Originally from Greeley, Delores Tronco was part of the local dining scene for years before moving to New York City, where she opened the Banty Rooster. While that venture ultimately shut down because of COVID, it led to something new: a return to Denver, where Tronco opened the NYC-inspired Greenwich in RiNo. Here you’ll find pizzas made on sourdough crust, veggie dishes that are as thoughtful as they are flavorful, and a wine list that’s packed with tempting choices from start to finish. ($$$)
3258 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill

Aspen Lodge Bar & Grill
Molly Martin
What do lava lamps, Christmas trees and Iron Maiden have in common? Mesut Cetin, the amiable owner and chef of Aspen Lodge loves them all, which is why his Westminster joint is packed with an impressive collection of the retro lights, year-round holiday decor and odes to metal. His other passion: sharing food from his native Turkey, which he serves alongside typical bar fare and “the best Philly cheesesteak in 666 miles radius,” as the sign out front proclaims.
8125 W. 94th Ave., Westminster, 80021

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Blackbelly

Blackbelly
Molly Martin
After winning Top Chef in 2009, chef Hosea Rosenberg launched a food truck and catering company before opening Blackbelly in 2014. Now he’s expanded the business even more, creating what the team calls a “culinary campus” complete with an upscale dining area, private dining room, two patios, and a market that showcases its in-house butchering, charcuterie and baking programs. It also serves daytime fare such as sandwiches and one of the best breakfast burritos in the metro area. In 2023, Blackbelly’s efforts were rewarded when it earned a Michelin green star for excellence in sustainability. ($$$$)
1606 Conestoga St., Boulder, 80301

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Sap Sua

Sap Sua
Casey Wilson
Even before it debuted in June 2023, Ni and Anna Nguyen’s Sắp Sửa garnered national attention as one of Bon Appétit’s most anticipated openings of the year. It’s serving what it calls non-traditional Vietnamese food; on the menu, traditional names of dishes are listed in quotations before the description of the team’s take on flavors that pay homage to Ni’s upbringing. Just one winning example: the bắp cải luộc, a beautiful cabbage dish based on the simple, fast and affordable version that his mother often made for him. ($$$)
2550 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Joy Hill

Joy Hill
Molly Martin
Joy Hill opened in the midst of the pandemic, prompting owners Julia Duncan-Roitman and Andy Templar to refocus on sourdough-crust pizza loaded with locally sourced toppings such as bison chorizo. Today the pizza remains the main draw, alongside a cocktail lounge-worthy beverage program. If you’re not in the mood for a full pie, the small plates are equally satisfying, plus you can nosh on your selections from a rooftop patio with views of the Rockies. ($$)
1229 S. Broadway, Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Sunday Vinyl

Sunday Vinyl
Sunday Vinyl
Sunday Vinyl debuted in 2019 as the music-driven wine-bar neighbor of Tavernetta, another member of the award-winning Frasca family that includes the Michelin-starred Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. But since then, we’ve come to love it just as much for its culinary chops as for its vino expertise, making it much more than a place to stop in for a glass before heading elsewhere: It’s a dinner destination in its own right. ($$$$)
1803 16th St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Kiké's Red Tacos

Kiké's Red Tacos
Molly Martin
A food truck that debuted in 2021, just as birria tacos were taking hold all over social media and restaurant menus, Kiké's Red Tacos really does them (and much more) right. Enrique Silva Figueroa (aka Kiké) spent much of his life working in restaurants and managing kitchens in Jalisco, Mexico. Now, with the help of his family — including son Cesar Silva González — he serves birria to a lot of passionate Denver fans. The family opened this brick-and-mortar in 2023, with an expanded kitchen and larger menu that includes carnitas and al pastor, as well as a full bar program. ($$)
1200 W. 38th Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

The Ginger Pig

The Ginger Pig
Mark Antonation
Former hockey player and lawyer Natascha Hess started the Ginger Pig as a food truck specializing in Asian fare that was inspired by the time she spent living in China when she was younger. In 2020, she debuted her first brick-and-mortar, adding a second takeout spot in Boulder in 2023. She’s recently traveled back to Asia several times, trips that reinvigorated her creativity and resulted in such dishes as Hong Kong-style French toast and Japanese mentaiko spaghetti. ($$)
4262 Lowell Blvd., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cafe Brazil

Cafe Brazil
Summer Powell
Cafe Brazil has been a haven for Mediterranean-inflected South American cuisine for more than thirty years. If you’ve been in Denver long enough, you probably knocked back your first caipirinha here — possibly even at the eatery’s original Highland location (long before folks started calling the area LoHi). Come for the slow-roasted meats, baked sweet plantains and satisfying seafood stews, like the coconut milk-enriched moqueca de peixe, and stay for a rum flight and warm hospitality from owners Tony and Marla Zarlenga. ($$$)
4408 Lowell Blvd., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Peter's Chinese Cafe

Peter's Chinese Cafe
Molly Martin
Since 1985, Peter Chan has overseen the action in the Congress Park neighborhood from his small eatery, where both he and his take on Chinese American fare have become a staple. When the craving for sesame chicken or moo shu pork strikes, give Peter’s a call (you won’t find it on any delivery apps). Most of the business here is takeout, though there are a few tables; if you’re picking up in person or dining in, you’ll also get a front-row seat to Chan’s particular brand of hospitality, which can swing from warm to funny to fiery in minutes, in the most charming way possible. ($)
2609 E. 12th Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Stowaway Kitchen

Stowaway Kitchen
Stowaway Kitchen
If there’s one word that captures the feeling of dining at Stowaway, it’s “nurtured.” At this daytime cafe, which was opened by Amy Cohen and Hayden Barnie in 2015, your appetite will be nurtured by wholesome foods made with a global influence that keeps things as fresh and exciting as they are comforting, and your soul will feel nurtured by the downright welcoming, happy vibes. Coffee and cocktails round out the offerings, making us equally happy when we stop by for a breakfast bite or a little afternoon reinvigoration. ($)
2528 Walnut St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bastien's Restaurant

Bastien's Restaurant
Molly Martin
With its iconic sign, sunken bar and mid-century aesthetic, Bastien's is a holdover from times past — and we wouldn't have it any other way. The family-run business dates back to the 1930s, but the current restaurant was constructed from scratch in 1958. That sign outside the Googie-style building touts the famed Bastien’s sugar steak, but there are twelve other preparations to choose from. And whether or not you splurge on a full steak dinner, nothing beats sipping Colfax dirty martinis delivered by friendly servers who've been working at this classic for years. ($$$$)
3503 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Poulette Bakeshop

Poulette Bakeshop
Poulette Bakeshop/Instagram
The drive from Denver to Parker hardly seems like a haul when your destination is Poulette, a bakery that started as a home-based pop-up from husband-and-wife chefs with highly impressive résumés and legendary mentors. In late 2021, Alen Ramos and Carolyn Nugent moved the business into a brick and-mortar location, and they haven’t stopped producing spectacular baked goods since, making this a destination for world-class cakes, breads, macarons and much more, including killer Wednesday sandwich specials.
19585 Hess Rd., #107, Parker, 80134

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Redeemer Pizza

Redeemer Pizza
Molly Martin
With a slice window in the back and full-service dining in the front, you can opt for a quick bite or a longer meal at this pizza place from the team behind fast-casual RiNo pasta favorite Dio Mio. Offering both New York and Sicilian-style pies made on naturally leavened sourdough crust and a menu of small plates and appetizers, Redeemer has the feel of a neighborhood joint — along with some of the best slices in the city. ($$)
2705 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Brasserie Brixton

Brasserie Brixton
Shawn Campbell
This isn’t like a regular French restaurant. It’s a cool French restaurant. Housed in a building that’s over 130 years old and once held a neighborhood market, the eatery is decidedly unstuffy and boasts an impressive wine list as well as a strong selection of cocktails, beer, cider and sake. Stop in for a bowl of French onion soup, or eat your way through a selection of dishes with playful touches that change with the seasons. Every neighborhood deserves a spot this good. ($$$$)
3701 Williams St., Denver, 80205

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Fruition

Fruition
Fruition
It’s been sixteen years since James Beard Award-winning chef/restaurateur Alex Seidel opened Fruition, and if you think this spot is only for fancy nights out, it’s time to visit again. Despite its reputation as a celebration spot, Fruition has always aimed to be more of a neighborhood bistro. Its current chef, Jarred Russell, came from a three-year stint at Thomas Keller's lauded French Laundry, but he’s committed to Seidel’s mission of catering to regulars and newcomers alike with fun twists on familiar favorites. ($$$$)
1313 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80218

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Major Tom

Major Tom
Major Tom
Call, which debuted in 2017, got a lot of buzz when it landed on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants list, but that concept didn’t survive the pandemic. Chef-owner Duncan Holmes and crew didn’t slow down, though. In 2023, the team earned a Michelin star for Beckon, its upscale tasting-menu concept; it also debuted the à la carte Major Tom in Call’s former space next door. The name is inspired by David Bowie's "Space Oddity,” and the restaurant is indeed out of this world, offering diners a more approachable venue where they can explore a concise menu of dishes like savory babka, hanger steak and overnight cabbage with red miso. ($$$$)
2845 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Temaki Den

Temaki Den
Temaki Den
Sushi Den and its sister restaurants on South Pearl Street have long been the standard for high-end Japanese dining in Denver, so when the Kizaki brothers opened a no-frills sushi counter inside the Source in RiNo, diners took notice. Now three years into its run, Temaki Den has a deserved reputation for excellence, dishing out aburi (or flame-seared sushi) and hand rolls (temaki) assembled in front of diners who are instructed to eat quickly and efficiently so as not to upset the delicate balance of the perfect bite: crispy nori, warm rice and cool fish. ($$$$)
3350 Brighton Blvd., @The Source, Denver, 80216

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Nola Jane Restaurant & Bar

Nola Jane Restaurant & Bar
Staci Berry
In 2021, the former Pour House space (that bar moved across the street) became a little slice of New Orleans in Denver with the debut of Nola Jane. This lively spot serves Cajun and Creole favorites like po’boys, jambalaya, gumbo and crawfish étouffée, as well as Hurricanes on draft, all with a side of Southern hospitality — and keeps on serving into the late-night hours, offering eats until midnight on school nights, and after on weekends. ($$)
1435 Market St., Denver, 80202

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La Mai Thai Kitchen

La Mai Thai Kitchen
Molly Martin
Orrapan Botthaisong opened her first solo venture in Edgewater in 2022, bringing a youthful, relaxed energy to La Mai Thai, where she turns out a rotating roster of street food, including staples like basil fried rice and crispy chicken wings from "grandma's recipe” as well as a take on khao soi made with crispy fried chicken instead of the typical braised meat. ($$)
2001 Sheridan Blvd., Edgewater, 80214

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Pit Fiend Barbecue

Pit Fiend Barbecue
Pit Fiend Barbecue
This barbecue joint, which was started in 2022 by Michael Graunke and Juan Pablo Llano, former employees of the now-closed Owlbear, has continued to bring the smoke (and D&D references) to RiNo, but with its own spin. Along with staples like brisket and pulled pork, you’ll find such vegetarian options as jackfruit and mushrooms, plus a rotating sausage of the week that highlights global flavors and other specials that emphasize different techniques, including smoked confit duck with a wide variety of sauces. ($$)
2826 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Bakery Four

Bakery Four
Bakery Four
In 2022, Shawn Bergin’s popular Bakery Four moved into a space much larger than its previous Highland home, though the line still often snakes out the door. The new address meant not only room for more customers, but also plenty of space to expand the pastry selection and add savory items like sandwiches. The only thing more tantalizing than a sweet treat from here is the promise of more to come as Bergin prepares to open a second, bagel-focused concept called Rich Spirit in Wheat Ridge. ($)
4150 Tennyson St., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Mi Tierra Caliente

Mi Tierra Caliente
Tony White
After years spent working for other people in the hospitality industry, Ayax Silva and his longtime friends, sisters Sandra and Fernanda Calderon, made the jump to becoming restaurant owners when they opened Mi Tierra Caliente in 2023. The menu pays homage to food from the Mexican state of Michoacán, from where all three hail, and the carnitas are the highlight. They're made the traditional way that Silva learned growing up, which includes taking large cuts of the pig and submerging them in massive copper or stainless-steel pots filled with lard, then letting the meat slowly cook overnight. The tacos come with strips of pickled carrots and jicama on top, which expertly balance the richness of the meat.
5350 W. 64th Ave., Arvada, 80003

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cantina Loca

Cantina Loca
Cantina Loca
Long before she became the executive chef of Casa Bonita, Dana Rodriguez made a name for herself in the local dining scene with Work & Class and Super Mega Bien. At her first solo venture, Cantina Loca, she shines a spotlight on her Mexican heritage with a crazy good lineup that includes braised-goat tacos, charcoal tempura-fried cactus and a bubbling, cheesy molcajete loaded with chicken, pork and steak, as well as cocktails made with tequila and mezcal from her own brand, Doña Loca. ($$$)
2890 Zuni St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe

Banh & Butter Bakery Cafe
Banh & Butter
Pastry chef Thoa Nguyen dreamed of running her own Parisian-style Asian-fusion bakery for years. One of the daughters of the former owners of New Saigon, she grew up in the restaurant business. Now she’s running the show at this spot, which excels not only in sweets such as crepe cakes and croissants, but savory options like banh mi and classic Parisian-style ham and butter sandwiches. ($)
9935 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Danny Ray's

Danny Ray's
Molly Martin
In March 2023, diner staple Danny’s Carnation closed after more than forty years in business. But owner Danny Hopkins kept its legacy going in a big way, moving into an expansive space three times the size of the original and introducing an updated version of the diner. The menu remains the same, and all the baking is still done by his wife, but this new iteration comes with some additions — including a full bar, televisions, and a patio tricked out with heaters and fire pits. ($)
11353 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 80215

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Mango House

Mango House
Candy Petrofsky
In 2019, this refugee resource center founded by Dr. PJ Parmar moved to a new, bigger location. Now home to several nonprofits and other services that include health care and a family lawyer, the facility houses a food court with international offerings, providing aspiring restaurateurs a place to share their cuisine. With stops ranging from Urban Burma to Jasmine Syrian Food and SwWahili BBQ Grill, a trip here is like a passport for food lovers. ($)
10180 E. Colfax Ave., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Dragonfly Noodle

Dragonfly Noodle
Molly Martin
In need of a fresh start after the pandemic, chef Edwin Zoe rebranded his Boulder eatery Chimera as Dragonfly Noodle in 2022, adding a second location on Denver's 16th Street Mall later that year. This sister concept to his casual Chinese restaurant, Zoe Ma Ma, boasts noodle dishes that span Asia, from Japan to Singapore to Vietnam to Taiwan. Zoe's ramen noodles are still made in-house — a real rarity in Colorado — and deeply flavored broths illustrate a dedication to traditional ingredients and methods, with just enough experimentation to set the eatery apart. ($)
1350 16th Street Mall, Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Le French

Le French
Le French
Aminata Dia and her sister, Rougui, who were raised outside of Paris, opened the original Le French at Belleview Station in the Tech Center in 2019. Since then, the menu has evolved to include even more nods to their Senegalese background, like Brie with baobab preserves; oysters with tamarind mignonette inspired by niambaan, a spicy Senegalese snack; and poutine with yassa, a caramelized onion and lemon sauce traditionally served with chicken. In September 2023, Aminata opened a second, much larger outpost at East Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard so even more Denverites can enjoy this spin on French cuisine. ($$$$)
4901 S. Newport St., Denver, 80237

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

La Fillette

La Fillette
Molly Martin
Despite the small size of its original location, La Fillette always made an impressive number of menu items in-house, from bread and croissants to duck confit and sausages. After a move to larger digs in early 2023, the bakery has continued to serve its celebrated baked goods and build-your-own breakfast sandwiches, as well as an expanded offering of omelets, quiche, French toast and even a burger on a flaky croissant bun. ($)
6217 E. 14th Ave., Denver, 80220

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Barolo Grill

Barolo Grill
Barolo Grill
Since 1992, Barolo Grill has served upscale Northern Italian fare in Cherry Creek with charm and sophistication — and a generous amount of vintage wine. Ryan Fletter, who worked there for nearly as long as it's been open, took over from Blair Taylor as owner in 2015 and quickly installed executive chef Darrel Truett in the kitchen, where cutting-edge presentations and techniques have kept the restaurant relevant and rewarding for guests. Fletter has also continued the tradition of taking the staff on annual trips to Italy, and Barolo's truffle dinner remains one of Denver's most indulgent culinary nights of the year. ($$$$)
3030 E. 6th Ave., Denver, 80206

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Point Easy

Point Easy
Molly Martin
Point Easy debuted in 2022 in the former Whittier Pub space, and it quickly cemented its place as a favorite in this historic neighborhood. The bright and welcoming space is matched by the bright and friendly service, all of which complements the seasonal menu highlighting local ingredients in ways that are upscale enough to feel special, but cozy and comforting enough for a weeknight meal. Bottom line: This place is easy to love. ($$)
2000 E. 28th Ave., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Lucina

Lucina
Molly Martin
In 2022, Create Cooking School co-owners Erasmo "Ras" Casiano and Diego Coconati opened this Latin eatery that specializes in the food on which the two were raised — which includes dishes inspired by Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Miami. Named for Casiano's mother, the restaurant is a labor of love, with a bright and airy decor and a menu that includes hit after hit, from the mofongo to mussels with chorizo and the ever-changing weekend-only paella. ($$)
2245 Kearney St., Denver, 80207

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal

La Diabla Pozole y Mezcal
Molly Martin
Those in the know had a hint of the tastiness to come when chef Jose Avila opened La Diabla in the summer of 2021, clued in by his Sunday-only series, El Borrego Negro, for which he cooks sheep barbacoa Hidalgo style in an hoyo (outdoor pit oven). The place may have pozole in the name, but the tacos here deserve top billing, whether you go for the al pastor, which you'll often find cooking on a trompo out front; the tres chorizo, with red, green and black versions of the spicy sausage; the pork chuleta enchilada (pork chop, complete with bone on the side); or the carne asada, which gets a serious umami boost when paired with the optional addition of roasted bone marrow that you can scoop on top. ($$)
2233 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

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Tikka & Grill

Tikka & Grill
Molly Martin
Many Americans are stuck in a rut when it comes to Indian food, and if chicken tikka masala and saag paneer are as adventurous as you want to get, Tikka & Grill's takes are exemplary, full of fragrant spices and depth. But you can also dig further into Indian — and Nepali — cuisine at this spot, which debuted in 2020 and added locations in 2022 and 2024. The street-food section of the menu offers the chance to experience the textures and bright, fresh flavor of dishes like bhel puri. Momo — Nepali dumplings — are a draw as well, as are a slew of curries and other dishes that will expand your taste horizons. ($$)
1300 S. Broadway, Denver, 80210

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Conu's Corner

Conu's Corner
Molly Martin
In 2019, Thuc-Nhu “Nhu” Hoang and her husband, Huy Pham, signed a lease for a space near Sloan’s Lake that they dreamed of turning into a coffee and sandwich shop. When delays pushed back the construction of the kitchen for four years, the couple ran the shop as a convenience store. In 2023, though, they finally debuted the food menu, dishing up Vietnamese comfort food, including banh mi using bread, mayo and pickled veggies all made in-house, while still offering the neighborhood everything from ice cream and soda to household supplies and lottery tickets. ($)
4400 W. 29th Ave., Denver, 80212

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Sam's No. 3

Sam's No. 3
Danielle Lirette
In 2004, Sam, Alex and Patrick Armatas brought the family business back to the same downtown block where it started decades ago. While the Aurora outpost will shutter at the end of 2023 following 25 years in business, a second outpost in Glendale remains. Alongside the Coney Island favorites that made Sam’s popular in the 1920s, the voluminous, multi-page menu is fueled with diner-style American, Greek and Mexican dishes, including gigantic green chile-smothered breakfast burritos. Pair one with a Bloody Mary and make no plans other than a long nap. ($)
1500 Curtis St., Denver, 80202

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Spuntino

Spuntino
Spuntino
Since taking over this intimate Italian eatery a decade ago, Elliot Strathmann and his wife, chef Cindhura Reddy, have created an inimitable dining experience. Dishes are often infused with unexpected culinary touches from Reddy’s Indian heritage and Strathmann’s impressive collection (and knowledge) of Italian amari. But there are also signature menu staples like goat from El Regalo Ranch and creamy arancini. ($$$)
2639 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Adobo

Adobo
Molly Martin
After a head-on motorcycle accident derailed his career in finance, Blaine Baggao re-evaluated his professional path, ultimately launching Adobo in 2016 as a food truck that combines his New Mexican and Filipino roots. Its first brick-and-mortar is an expansive space that hosts live music and serves food into the late-night hours, with a menu of hits that includes favorites like lumpia and chicken adobo tacos. ($)
3109 Federal Blvd., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Casa Bonita

Casa Bonita
Molly Martin
The reopening of the iconic pink palace under new owners Trey Parker and Matt Stone has been a South Park-worthy saga. While some people are frustrated by the ongoing, email-only invite system, those who have snagged a reservation can attest to the fact that the controlled crowds add to the magic. Yes, chef Dana Rodriguez upped the food game, but a visit here is about so much more than what’s on your plate. It’s an experience that’s nostalgic in all the best ways, whether you’re visiting for the first time or the hundredth. ($$$)
6715 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 80214

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Tofu Story

Tofu Story
Molly Martin
Prolific local restaurateur J.W. Lee brought the metro area another hit when he introduced Tofu Story next door to one of his longtime establishments, Seoul Korean BBQ & Hot Pot. After debuting the concept in New York (that outpost is run by Lee’s aunt), he replicated its success in a strip-mall spot that’s been buzzing since it opened in 2013. As the name implies, tofu is the star here: This is the only restaurant in the area that has its own in-house tofu-making program, and you can watch the process in the on-site “tofu lab” while slurping hot bowls of soon tofu soups and other Korean specialties.
2060 S. Havana St., Aurora, 80014

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Rioja

Rioja
Scott Lentz
Since being taken over by Asana Partners in 2020, Larimer Square has undergone some big changes, with more to come. But Rioja, opened by Beth Gruitch and chef Jennifer Jasinski in 2004, remains not just a staple on the block, but a winner in Denver’s ever-growing dining scene, with a bar that feels as hip as the day the restaurant opened, and satisfying Mediterranean-influenced fare for brunch, lunch and dinner. ($$$$)
1431 Larimer St., Denver, 80202

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Wildflower

Wildflower
Jimena Peck
Located inside a boutique hotel in LoHi that models itself after the American West with Victorian touches, Wildflower might be easy to write off as a cocktail bar meant for tourists. But everyone, locals included, will find much more to enjoy here. The design details alone are a feast for the eyes, and the cocktails served in eclectic drinkware are a delight. But the food is a standout all on its own, with artistically crafted takes on dishes like scallop crudo, black truffle tart and duck with beet tartare. If you’re dining here for date night, you can even order a bouquet of wildflowers with your dessert.
3638 Navajo St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge

Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge
Danielle Lirette
Founded by Willie and Esther Garcia in the 1960s, Mexico City Lounge has been a family-owned staple for decades. It hasn't changed much in that time, with the exception of a slight facelift in 2012, but the area around it sure has…and the ownership has moved down a couple of generations. But despite the evolution of the Ballpark neighborhood, Mexico City remains a down-home cantina full of guaranteed good food and good times — and its famous, must-try fried tacos made with melty American cheese. (Don’t question it, just dive in.) ($)
2115 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Hey Kiddo

Hey Kiddo
Jeff Fierberg
Describing restaurateur Kelly Whitaker's concepts, which include the now Michelin-starred Wolf’s Tailor and Brutø, isn’t easy. That's because he is a culinary agent of chaos, combining dishes, cuisines and concepts with wild abandon — and constantly switching things up, driven by a larger mission to create stronger local food systems. At his newest effort, Hey Kiddo, which debuted in 2023, “good” and “fun” are at the forefront, and the selections include staples like oysters, caviar and K-Town Fried Chicken alongside bites such as chicken liver mousse on Texas toast and red miso ice cream. ($$$$)
4337 Tennyson St., Denver, 80212

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Noisette

Noisette
Noisette
Noisette opened in 2022 in a revamped restaurant space that's distractingly elegant — though not in a stiff, white-tablecloth kind of way. The white decor with pops of pastel and a mix of modern and vintage is inviting and transportive. Small vases of flowers on each table add a romantic touch, as do the mismatched flatware and floral antique plates. The menu is a slightly upscale take on cuisine bourgeoise, or French home cooking, and a tempting brunch has proved a welcome addition. Noisette’s delectable sweets are not to be missed, nor is the lineup from its attached daytime bakery. ($$$$)
3254 Navajo St., Denver, 80211

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Yuan Wonton/Sweets & Sourdough

Yuan Wonton/Sweets & Sourdough
Molly Martin
This two-in-one powerhouse debuted in Park Hill the day after Labor Day 2023, bringing together the first brick-and-mortar location of chef Penelope Wong’s popular Yuan Wonton food truck; and women-led bakery Sweets and Sourdough. Each operates at different times and the menu changes regularly, but the bottom line is this: Whenever you make it in, you’re sure to find something very delicious from this talented crew. ($$$)
2878 Fairfax St., Denver, 80207

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Noodles Express

Noodles Express
Molly Martin
While there’s a section on the Noodles Express menu called "America's Popular," that's the least interesting part of this counter-service joint, which opened in February 2020. The bulk of the menu is a long list of Szechuan selections, and that's where your focus should be. Many of these dishes are heavy on mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns and chiles, providing proteins from chong qing chicken to spicy boiled fish with an addictive kick. Be sure to come with a crowd, as every dish is large enough to share. ($$)
703 S. Colorado Blvd., Glendale, 80246

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Gaia Masala & Burger

Gaia Masala & Burger
Molly Martin
This fast-casual restaurant that started in Boulder and now has two Denver outposts is a savior for anyone seeking late-night eats. It offers straight-up Indian dishes, a smattering of Mediterranean entrees like falafel and shawarma, and a handful of burgers. But dig deeper into the menu and you'll find the really exciting stuff: neon-orange tikka masala cheesesteaks; a burger topped with mint, cucumber and tikka masala sauce; and (our fave!) cheesy masala fries served plain or loaded up with a choice of chicken, lamb or cheesesteak. ($$)
609 Grant St., Denver, 80203

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Annette

Annette
Annette
In 2022, Annette chef-owner Caroline Glover became Aurora’s first James Beard Award winner, five years after she opened her first solo venture. Over the years, this Stanley Marketplace anchor has only gotten better as Glover plays with seasonal ingredients to keep things fresh while also revisiting past favorites from time to time. The beef tongue remains a staple, the happy-hour steak frites are swoon-worthy, and we always save room for whatever dessert the kitchen is dishing out — especially if it’s a Paris-Brest pastry. ($$$$)
2501 Dallas St., Aurora, 80010

The 100 Best Denver Restaurants We Can't Live Without

Cart-Driver

Cart-Driver
Oh Hey Creative
For nearly a decade, the original Cart-Driver in RiNo has been a destination for perfectly bubbly, charred, wood-fired Neapolitan pizza served from a small space made from a shipping container. Whether you’re dining there or at the newer, bigger LoHi outpost, there’s no denying that Cart-Driver’s stellar pies, fresh oysters and tinned fish remain a winning combination that is fresh and fun. ($)
2500 Larimer St., Denver, 80205

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Carmine Lonardo's

Carmine Lonardo's
Molly Martin
This cozy, family-owned Italian market and deli has been around since 1976. The shelves are lined with imported pasta of all shapes and sizes, olive oil, canned goods, frozen foods like housemade sausages, and so much more. Still, the sandwiches — huge, messy masterpieces loaded onto freshly baked rolls, which you can custom-order with that Italian sausage and a variety of other meats in hot and cold varieties — are unbeatable, and reason enough to visit. ($)
7585 W. Florida Ave., Lakewood, 80232

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Olivia

Olivia
Restaurant Olivia/Instagram
Pasta is at the heart of this Italian restaurant that opened in 2020. The dough master is chef Ty Leon, but what really sets Olivia apart is the symphony of teamwork that makes every aspect of dining here sing, from the skilled front-of-house crew led by Heather Morrison to the exceptional beverage program headed by Austin Carson. In 2023, the restaurant unveiled an expanded space where it can host educational programming and other events, including pasta-making classes. ($$$$)
290 S. Downing St., Denver, 80209

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Pete's Kitchen

Pete's Kitchen
Danielle Lirette
Late-night food is hard to come by in the Mile High these days, and 24-hour joints are even more rare, but the pancake-flipping neon chef above Pete's Kitchen remains a beacon on East Colfax for those who need to sate their hunger in the darkest hours of the night — on weekends, at least, when the eatery keeps the grill hot all day and overnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Owned by the Contos family since 1988 — and bearing the name of patriarch Pete Contos, who passed away in 2019 — Pete's satisfies like no other, whether you're here for a gyros omelet, a burrito smothered in green chile, or just a burger and fries. ($)
1962 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, 80206

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Bistro LeRoux

Bistro LeRoux
Bistro LeRoux
Lon Symensma's snazzy European restaurant debuted just before New Year’s Eve 2018 next door to one of his other eateries, ChoLon, home of his famed French onion-soup dumplings. After a brief closure in 2021, it came back with a new lounge area and a revamped menu, with a tighter focus on French fare. The design details in this sexy spot, including eye-catching chandeliers, make it ideal for date nights, during which you can dig into both shareable small plates and larger entrees that cover such bistro staples as steamed mussels and delicately layered potato pavé. ($$$$)
1510 16th St., Denver, 80202